Trump at the UN: Bellicosity and its Costs


To say Donald Trump’s UN speech last week was an embarrassment for his country is to understate the case; to say it made the U.S. a laughing stock is closer to the mark.

A cornucopia of falsehoods and half-truths, it included the risible assertion of America’s respect for the sovereignty of other nations; North Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, even Ukraine all lost to temporary amnesia, the largely unsuccessful focus was on attracting support against North Korea and Iran —  recidivism to the Bush-Cheney neocon position.  And meeting with the leaders of Columbia and Brazil to discuss Venezuela (could regime change be on someone’s mind?) was the icing on the cake of hypocrisy.

Drug money is a perpetual flood in Columbia; political corruption runs rife in Brazil.  Three weeks ago, $16 million worth of cash was found stashed in an apartment used by a former cabinet minister in President Michel Temer’s government.

Cheap discourse belittles a man.  Calling Kim Jong-un ‘Rocket Man’ certainly got a response from him:  he called the speech a “dog’s bark” … although he wasn’t addressing the UN General Assembly.  Calling Iran a dictatorship supporting terrorism, Trump, as usual, criticized the nuclear deal hinting he might pull out of it.  Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s elected president, addressed the same body at a later time. He referred to a “rogue newcomer to international politics” and called the Trump speech, “ignorant, absurd, and hateful.  Tweeted his foreign minister, Javad Zarif, “A hateful speech that belongs in medieval times.” 

The only support rested with Israel and Saudi Arabia — the latter claiming, without citing evidence, that Iran was cheating to develop a nuclear capability.  The rest of the world, including IAEA the monitoring agency, believes Iran has been complying fully.

Even among traditional allies, no one could fully support Mr. Trump.  The British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said they were trying to persuade the U.S. not to pull out of the Iran deal.  Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom called it “…the wrong speech, at the wrong time, to the wrong audience,” using “schoolyard language like ‘losers'”, adding that it allowed countries like Iran to criticize the U.S. in international forums and receive a sympathetic response.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron wanted countries to work together as opposed to the Trump emphasis on sovereign nations.  He said it would be a “grave error” to back out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel was highly critical:  “I am against threats of this kind … I must say we consider any type of military solution absolutely inappropriate and we are counting on diplomatic efforts.”  She is also reported to have observed that more Germans are anti-Trump than are anti-immigration.  Merkel, Xi and Putin were all absent from Trump’s speech.

The new threats expanding the previous “fire and fury” now promise complete annihilation of North Korea, a country of 25 million.  No thoughts about the effects on South Korea, or of the thousands there who still have relatives in the North.  If Theodore Roosevelt advised us to “talk softly and carry a big stick,” Donald Trump prefers the megaphone; so far to no tangible benefit.

He has relied on China to help, seemingly without realizing its relations with North Korea are at an ebb while the latter’s ties with Russia have strengthened.  Kim Jong-un has not visited Beijing and President Xi Jinping has not been to Pyongyang.  More to the point, President Xi has held four summit meetings with his South Korean counterparts — he is keen to foster closer ties. 

Indeed, while China does help prop up the North Korean economy, its (and Russia’s) current focus is on economic links with the South via a rail link through the North, joining the peninsula to China and Russia and beyond to the Eurasian One Belt One Road network — new markets for the participants.  As Mr. Trump throws Iran into their welcoming arms, it, too, is a willing participant in this massive development strategy.

Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.


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